How to Get Over Your Fear of Riding a Motorbike in Southeast Asia

  March 26, 2019 travel posts 🕑 4 minutes read

Motorbike in Chiang Mai, Thailand.


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Many tourists and expats feel held captive by tuk tuks, taxis or Lyfts these days in Southeast Asia.


Each mode of transport offers people a cheap, convenient way of getting around the region but nothing beats renting a motorbike for traversing SE Asia. Not even close.


1 word: freedom. 10 minutes from now I hop on the motorbike to visit a 7-11 here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. One heated dinner and sweet Thai treat later, I can be back home in 10 minutes. Imagine walking or waiting for a taxi or Lyft if the 7-11 is too far for walking? No thank you.


Farang either love motorbikes or fear motorbikes here in Thailand. Ditto for expats and tourists in Bali. Some cling to a ridiculous terror of these 2 wheeled gems, believing death awaits any foreigner foolish enough to motorbike around this region.


I have been in one serious motorbike accident after being on the road for thousands of hours. The culprit; hitting an oil slick on a sharp curve after I glanced away from the road for a few seconds. Foolish move. Rare, too. Other than that situation, I’ve ridden in remote areas, urban centers and everything in between with zero problems.


Tap into freedom – and fun – guys. Follow these tips to get over the fear of riding a motorbike.


1: For Every Horror Story You’ve 10,000 Pleasant Stories


Fear-filled farang are quick to quote motorbike deaths, terrible accidents and the odd broken arm or leg scrape, here and there, as reasons for not hopping on a motorbike. For each rough news story you’ve thousands of motorbike riders who have safe, secure experiences on the motorbike.


Save spotting an oil slick too late in Bali, I’ve had zero problems on the bike. No nightmare experiences. No stress. I ride by the shoulder, travel slowly and have no issues.


Get over your fear by not giving your attention to mass motorbike fears.


2: Practice in a Traffic-Free Area


I recall renting a motorbike in Phuket for the first time in 2011. I had to; at the time, the ruthless tuk tuk mafia ruled the roost, charging hefty rates.


I did feel uncomfortable for about 5 minutes but practicing slowly, and calmly, on a traffic-free side street in Rawai, gave me confidence in riding the thing.


I see Chinese and Western tourists renting motorbikes in the center of Chiang Mai for the first time. Nervous, panicked faces indicate such, as these poor souls try to navigate heavy traffic around the Old City 5 seconds after hopping on it for the first time. Terrible idea. Take a Lyft or tuk tuk to a rental spot in a village about 5-10 minutes from the city center. Rent and practice in quiet, peaceful surroundings. Finding a side street and spending 20-30 minutes practicing does wonder for your confidence and dissolves many fears.


3: Wear Your Helmet at all Times


Many motorbike deaths and horrific injuries are the result of helmet-less riders riding too quickly. Head hits pavement. Bad news.


Wear your helmet. Avoid serious injury or death and feel confident riding the thingee.


4: Ride Slowly on the Shoulder or By the Shoulder


I can ride like the dickens – and do sometimes in Phuket, riding from Patong to Rawai past midnight when the roads are about empty – but usually go as slow as a grandpa, cruising on the shoulder at 20 KPH to 40 KPH. Especially when I ride with Kelli.


Go slowly. Avoid accidents. Avoid yahoos who drive too quickly. Be clear and confident in your riding skills. Steer clear of cowboys who fly by near the center of the road, far to your right.


5: Do Not Ride in Rain


Riding in the rain feels a bit dangerous; nothing like losing motorbike confidence when you hydroplane as you ride around a curve in heavy, monsoon rains.


Forget the motorbike and rain coat routine. Get a taxi, tuk tuk or Lyft.


Guys; getting over this fear gives you immense freedom. Kelli and I can go wherever we want to go at the drop of a hat. After a few minutes of practice you literally gain your balance on the motorbike; this is the biggest challenge, from my experience.


Riding a motorbike slowly, calmly and confidently is a safe experience throughout SE Asia.


See ya on the road!